Cool Whip, invented in the late 1960s, used to be all the rage for housewives perfecting a key lime pie, strawberry shortcake or chocolate mousse for the family. The fluffed whipped cream alternative is a quick-fix for all things dessert-in-a-snap, but nothing about it is reminiscent of real whipped cream. In fact, of the 12 or so ingredients in Cool Whip, there are only two that aren’t toxic to humans—and water is one of those.
It’s hard to resist the charm of Cool Whip: It’s fluffy, it’s sweet, it’s light and, until just recently, it used to be dairy-free. But there’s nothing natural about the stuff. In fact, its ingredients are loaded with chemicals and additives known to be toxic to human health.
Here’s a rundown of what’s inside the Original Cool Whip: Water, hydrogenated vegetable oil, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, skim milk, light cream and less than 2% sodium caseinate (a milk derivative), natural and artificial flavor, xanthan and guar gums, polysorbate 60, sorbitan monostearate and beta carotene (as a coloring).
And here’s a play-by-play on just how toxic each of those ingredients may be to our bodies:
Hydrogenated oils: Hydrogenated oils have been shown time and again to cause heart disease by increasing LDL (the bad stuff) and lowering HDL (the good stuff).
(High fructose) corn syrup: Not all calories are alike, and neither are all sugars. Princeton University recently found that corn syrup causes stronger weight gain than regular table sugar—and may also contributete more heavily to obesity and diabetes. And recent studies show it may also contain trace amounts of mercury, which may cause cancer, reproductive disorders and a myriad of degenerative diseases.
Skim milk and light cream: Researchers have found a strong association between skim or fat-free milk and cancer—especially prostate cancer in men.
Sodium caseinate: This dairy derivative has been linked to autism, brain malfunctions and allergies.
Natural and artificial flavor: Come on now. This can really be anything. “N&A,” as dubbed in the food chemistry world, can be from vegetable or animal sources, can contain gluten or chemicals, can be various forms of MSG (which, as a “flavor enhancer,” pops up in most “flavors”).
Xantham & guar gums: These are used as a laxative, in medicines, and as a thickener in foods by mixing sugars and bacteria. In small doses, it shouldn’t pose a problem for individuals, but large amounts can cause diarrhea.
Polysorbate 60: Used in foods and beauty products, this chemically-derived emulsifier has been linked to organ toxicity, diarrhea and tumors in lab mice.
Sorbitan monostearate: This chemically-derived substance is commonly referred to as “synthetic wax”—yes, you’re eating synthetic wax. In numerous studies, this substance has been linked to skin, eye and respiratory irritants to stomach disruptions.
Beta carotene: This might be the sole ingredient in Cool Whip that actually isn’t toxic. Hooray for that!
This summer, when you're making key lime pie or want a perfect garnish for your fresh cherry cobbler, skip the Cool Whip and opt for the real stuff: Homemade Vegan Whipped Cream.